Talking Tech Law 2

June 24, 2018

Lorraine Chimbga, a Compliance Analyst at FundApps and SCL Ambassador, is the youngest of our respondents

1. What makes IT law different from other areas of law and why did you choose to work in this sector? 

My interest in the topic came about in my final year of Law at University College London (UCL). I was able to apply to take an elective for the year at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) in Information Technology Law. This was a turning point for me.

Being able to analyse the history and development of technology alongside its effects on everyday life through an academic lens, whilst considering how in turn these developments have affected the legal profession was invaluable. It helped me to realise that there is so much potential in this field to explore as a legal specialist who understands these nuances from an academic as well as a practical and technical perspective.

I realised that although the legal profession has been talking about the effects of technology for quite a few decades, the difference is that now we have the technology with the relevant capabilities to bring about those dreaded disruptive changes and I like a good challenge. 

2. How did you get your start in the sector? 

Well, I am in a unique position where technically I haven’t begun to work in a law firm (yet). Following my graduation from UCL and LSE in 2016, I decided to first get some practical experience in the tech field as I wanted to understand the limitations and possibilities of technology from a practical perspective and learn how to code. 

Over the last year and a half, I have been working in a regtech startup called FundApps as part of the Content Team. I analyse financial regulations and memos, I then code this analysis into software that helps asset managers monitor their positions in over 90 jurisdictions in order to comply with shareholding disclosure requirements. 

I have been able to gain some practical experience on what it involves to transform the law as it is written, into a software based solution that can make regulatory requirements easier for financial institutions to comply with. 

3. What is the single biggest issue facing IT law over the next 10 years and what is the most exciting tech law development on the horizon? Are they the same?? 

I couldn’t possibly say there is one single issue because technology and innovation by their very nature can be quite unpredictable. However, one thing that I do believe will affect the legal profession is how we respond to the fears that somehow robots will destroy the profession.

If anything, I think that as the printing press revolutionised legal practice in the 15th Century by providing legal professionals with a method through which they could control legal information and regulate the profession, we have the power now to redefine what the rule of law is and what is permissible in the Digital Era.

Since Law involves using information to control behaviour, challenges to existing legal processes can be expected to occur when information is used differently. Therefore, as we move from a world where value is held in the physical to a digital world where value is held in bits, it calls for a rethinking of the grand bargain that society has struck with the profession as the ‘gatekeepers’ of legal expertise. So the most exciting development that I would like to help shape would be a reformulation of the grand bargain that lawyers have struck with society tailored for the Digital Era. 

4. You’re asked to reapply for your job. If you’re unconvincing, you’ll be replaced by a robot. What would you say? 

I am the one that codes the legal software solutions for these robots. It’s not going to happen.

5. Who is your tech law hero and why?? 

I would have to say Professor Andrew Murray from the LSE. Without his work and lectures, I would not have discovered my interest in the topic. Through the academic analysis and exploration of the jurisprudential and historical context of Information Technology Law, I was able to appreciate these developments and how they relate to the law and our society as it currently is, against what it could be in this new Digital Era.

Additionally, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the great work that the SCL currently does in encouraging young lawyers to consider a career in tech law, if he hadn’t encouraged us to participate in an essay competition the Society was running on whether the functionality or source code of software should be protected by the courts.

Lastly, I also wouldn’t have been introduced to the academic contributions of pioneers such as John Perry Barlow, Lawrence Lessig, Richard Susskind, Ethan Katsch etc., whose work largely contributed to my research paper submitted in my final year at UCL. My dissertation explored whether the increasing use of technology would invigorate or diminish legal professionalism, as the nature of information changes in the ‘Digital Age’. This paper ultimately led me to winning the Best Future International Future Lawyer Award from The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) in 2017! 

In the instalment posted on Facebook in April 2018, Andrew Sharpe, Legal Counsel for Middle East, Orange Business Services, gave his answers. 

1. What makes IT law different from other areas of law and why did you choose to work in this sector?

It’s difficult to be succinct about the first part of this question. Firstly, I can’t really pin down what ‘IT law’ is. I am not sure you can say there is any IT law. Did we have wind or water law, superseded by steam law? Instead, I see IT law as a means of looking at how other traditional legal subjects, mercantile or contract law, human rights, intellectual property, privacy and even international or administrative law are affected by electronic communications and information processing. 

From this, it is easy to see that someone like me from a technology background, who likes a generalist approach to law and practice, should be interested in it. It covers so much, is never static and continues to throw up new and interesting problems.

2. How did you get your start in the sector?

I started out as an electronics engineer, specialising in telecommunications but with some software programming and computer systems design and maintenance. So although I was open-minded about which area of law to practice, I was soon attracted to IT/IP as a legal field.

I also fell into telecommunications regulation, partly as a result of timing of changes in regulation when I was a trainee solicitor, and partly because I found I had some capability and skill for that role. That was an early career mistake – it took me a few years to shake off that specialisation. My advice, don’t specialise too early, unless you are sure that is where you want to stay.

3. What is the single biggest issue facing IT law over the next 10 years and what is the most exciting tech law development on the horizon? Are they the same?

Just for fun, I’ll imagine that within 10 years we will see genuine self-programming computers, which some argue, Westworld-like, is the point when we have ‘real’ artificial intelligence. But any software for these computers will have been designed by humans, able, albeit much more slowly, to model and predict what the self-programming computer would be likely to do for any inputs. After all, computers are only able to make pre-defined logical decisions. So who will bear liability for the results of these computers, able eventually to process faster than we can predict or model?

For tech law, I’d be happy to see more intelligent use made of big data – forget AI. I can see more developments in linguistic analysis of evidence and case law to give more accurate predictions of commercial litigation outcomes – as a non-litigator, with the pleasing result that with more accurate predictions, there would firstly be more mediation/negotiated settlement of disputes and less actual arbitration or court time, and secondly a feedback into contracting itself.

4. You’re asked to reapply for your job. If you’re unconvincing, you’ll be replaced by a robot. What would you say?

Whilst there is an increase in tools that are taking away more mechanical or repetitive tasks or my job, in essence I am a risk evaluator and problem solver. As I work in-house in an international business, I have the added complication of dealing with, on average, three or four different business cultures on any deal on my side alone, yet alone those of the customer/supplier. There is an art to working with different cultures; a lot that is done on intuition and experience. Maybe a robot will get there, but thankfully not in my lifetime.

5. Who is your tech law hero and why? 

I am afraid I don’t have one. The nearest I have is the late Gary Slapper, who I came across when I was an engineer looking into liability issues when qualifying as a health and safety officer. We agreed on the pathetic enforcement of health and safety, and the lack of any corporate manslaughter law.

These responses first appeared on the SCL Facebook account and SCL is looking for more tech lawyers to get involved.